When IBM introduced its personal computer in August 1981, Jobs had his team buy one and dissect it.
Their consensus was that it sucked.
Chris Espinosa called it "a half-assed, hackneyed attempt," and there was some truth to that.
It used old-fashioned command-line prompts and didn't support bitmapped graphical displays.
Apple became cocky, not realizing that
corporate technology managers might feel more comfortable buying from an established company like IBM
rather than one named after a piece of fruit.
Bill Gates happened to be visiting Apple headquarters for a meeting on the day the IBM PC was announced.
"They didn't seem to care," he said.
"It took them a year to realize what had happened."
Reflecting its cheeky confidence,
Apple took out a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal with the headline "Welcome, IBM. Seriously."
It cleverly positioned the upcoming computer battle as a two-way contest
between the spunky and rebellious Apple and the establishment Goliath IBM,
conveniently relegating to irrelevance companies such as Commodore, Tandy, and Osborne that were doing just as well as Apple.
Throughout his career, Jobs liked to see himself as an enlightened rebel pitted against evil empires,
a Jedi warrior or Buddhist samurai fighting the forces of darkness.
IBM was his perfect foil.
He cleverly cast the upcoming battle not as a mere business competition, but as a spiritual struggle.
"If, for some reason, we make some giant mistakes and IBM wins,
my personal feeling is that we are going to enter sort of a computer Dark Ages for about twenty years," he told an interviewer.
"Once IBM gains control of a market sector, they almost always stop innovation."
Even thirty years later, reflecting back on the competition, Jobs cast it as a holy crusade:
"IBM was essentially Microsoft at its worst.
They were not a force for innovation; they were a force for evil.
They were like ATT or Microsoft or Google is."